1 PETER 1:13-25
13Therefore prepare your minds for action; discipline yourselves; set all your hope on the grace that Jesus Christ will bring you when he is revealed. 14Like obedient children, do not be conformed to the desires that you formerly had in ignorance. 15Instead, as he who called you is holy, be holy yourselves in all your conduct; 16for it is written, "You shall be holy, for I am holy."
17If you invoke as Father the one who judges all people impartially according to their deeds, live in reverent fear during the time of your exile. 18You know that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your ancestors, not with perishable things like silver or gold, 19but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without defect or blemish. 20He was destined before the foundation of the world, but was revealed at the end of the ages for your sake. 21Through him you have come to trust in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are set on God.
22Now that you have purified your souls by your obedience to the truth so that you have genuine mutual love, love one another deeply from the heart. 23You have been born anew, not of perishable but of imperishable seed, through the living and enduring word of God. 24For "All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, 25but the word of the Lord endures forever." That word is the good news that was announced to you.
The theme of this passage is captured by one word, "holy," (hagios in Greek, qadosh in Hebrew). Most of us think of "moral purity" when we hear "holy." And certainly moral purity is to be found in holiness. But the central meaning of "holy" as applied to creatures is "set apart" or dedicated to God. Or, as the New International Dictionary of Old Testament Theology and Exegesis defines the term, it is a "separation to God rather than from the world."
Holiness, therefore, is dynamic. It's not something God chooses to keep to himself -- a state of his being that doesn't do anything. God is its origin, but He calls into His sphere people, times, and objects. So what we get when we grasp "holiness" as defined in the Scriptures is something much more than the "moral purity" of not committing sins and avoiding evil. What we get is something much more radical: we are given over wholly to God.
Holiness entails that we give our best to God. And the best we can give is who we are! This understanding of giving our all, including our bodies, is captured by Romans 12:1-2: "Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will."
Let's pray: Father God, we confess holiness is not something that rises to the top of the list of things we want in our lives. We confess we've misunderstood holiness. Many of us have thought of holiness in puritanical terms: not doing certain things, not thinking certain things, etc. We've missed out on the central meaning of being "set apart" for you! "Set apart" not like a museum statute placed in a certain room. But "set apart" like in a marriage or like a sacrifice. We desire that biblical understanding of holiness to inform us, and to shape us. May we become indeed a "living sacrifice" unto you, for your glory and for our joy. In Jesus' name, amen.